Monday, 28 January 2013

Mini Red Velvet cakes

Cup of tea and mini red velvet cake

As per my previous post, I’ve been inspired by GBBO this week. My second bake of the weekend was mini Red Velvet cakes – partly inspired by Claudia Winkleman on GBBO and partly due to my wish to use my new mini sandwich tin

Mini Red Velvet CakesI used the Bertinet Kitchen Red Velvet cupcake recipe used previously for my Halloween Red Velvet cupcakes, simply spooned into the mini sandwich tin rather than cupcake cases. The recipe suggests that it makes 14 and it did overspill considerably out of my 12 hole tin, so I would use less next time! Before spooning the mix in, I sprayed the tin liberally with Dr Oetker cake release spray and the cakes came out very easily so I would definitely recommend!

Once baked, I allowed the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes before turning them out onto a wire rack. I then allowed them to cool completely before cutting their rather mushroomed tops off and cutting them in half. To improve their appearance, I then turned them over, so that the bottom edge became the top. The cakes were then filled with a mix of crushed raspberries and raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, topped with a buttercream star and a raspberry and dusted with icing sugar. 

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Honey and Lemon Beehive cakes

Mini honey and lemon beehive cake

I’ve been inspired by GBBO this week and was debating between three things for weekend baking – the honey and lemon cake made by Martha Kearney, the red velvet cakes made by Claudia Winkleman and the chocolate ├ęclairs from the Technical Challenge. I really fancy a go at making ├ęclairs but decided against in the end – I think they’re better eaten fresh and seeing as it is only me and the EHH around this weekend, we’d get very fat! I also wouldn’t want to take them into work as they are typically filled with fresh cream and should therefore be kept in the fridge.

I loved the look and the idea of the honey and lemon cake – but decided to make mini ones instead – this was a mistake!  I didn’t use Martha’s recipe used on the show – I found this one on the Good Food website, which was really well rated and so decided to do that, with the addition of the zest from two lemons. I also swapped the dark brown sugar for light brown – I find that dark brown can be a little overpowering. I also decided to leave off the drizzle topping and decorate with a buttercream. Rather than making it as one large cake, I divided the mixture between 12 cupcake cases.

Once baked, I allowed to the cakes to cool, then sliced off their tops to create a flat base and turned them out of the cupcake cases.  As they are fairly sticky cakes, they didn’t turn out that well – if I were to do them again, it would be better to use silicon baking cases, or bake in the tin without the cases – just lots of cake-release spray. I then turned the cakes upside down and trimmed a little from the top corner – to create a more domed top. 

Icing them was very tricky and took a little bit of practise – the first few I did looked awful! My new turntable definitely helped. I used a small round icing nozzle and carefully turned the turntable as I iced.  I tried starting the icing from the top and from the bottom, but it didn’t seem to make much difference – slightly easier from the top, I think!

In the end, the cakes taste fantastic but I wasn’t thrilled with their appearance – they are a little untidy for my liking, and will also be tricky to eat! I’ll definitely do this recipe again – but either as a large cake or as normal cupcakes with just a beehive iced on top!

Honey and Lemon Beehive cakes
Mini honey and lemon beehive cakes


  1. 250g clear honey
  2. 225g unsalted butter
  3. 100g light brown muscovado sugar
  4. 3 large eggs , beaten
  5. 300g self-raising flour
  6. Grated zest of two lemons

Buttercream icing:

  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 3 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  4. 1 tblsp honey


  1. Cut the butter into pieces and drop into a medium pan with the honey and sugar.
  2. Melt slowly over a low heat.
  3. When the mixture looks quite liquid, increase the heat under the pan and boil for about one minute.
  4. Tip mixture into a clean glass bowl and place in a larger bowl of cool water – this will help it to cool more quickly.
  5. Leave to cool for 20-30 minutes, to prevent the eggs cooking when they are mixed in.
  6. Preheat the oven to 140C.
  7. Place 12 silicon cupcake cases into a baking tin.
  8. Beat the eggs into the melted honey mixture using a wooden spoon.
  9. Sift the flour into a large bowl and pour in the egg and honey mixture and the lemon zest, beating until you have a smooth, quite runny batter.
  10. Pour the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 40-50 minutes, until the cakes are well-risen, golden brown and spring back when pressed. A skewer pushed into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
  11. Whilst the cakes are cooking, make the buttercream.
  12. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, juice, honey and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  13. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  14. Once the cakes are cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack.
  15. Allow to cool thoroughly before slicing the tops off the cakes to create a flat base.
  16. Turn out of the cupcake cases.
  17. Turn upside down and trim the top edges to create a domed top.
  18. Place icing in a piping bag with a small round nozzle.
  19. Pipe around the cake in a spiral to create a beehive look.
  20. Decorate with bees made from fondant icing.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Apple and Cinnamon Owl cupcakes

Box of apple and cinnamon cupcakes with cute owl toppers
As mentioned in my previous post, it was my friend’s birthday and so I was baking presents. Having decided to make apple and cinnamon cupcakes – I realised I was going to have to make up the recipe as I couldn’t find one in any of my many baking books and I don’t really like trusting online recipes that much!

I decided to go with my standard Primrose Bakery cupcake recipe and adapt as I went through!  As I wanted a slightly denser and fudgier cake – I decided to use a mix of light brown and Demerara sugar, instead of castor. I reduced the milk slightly to compensate for the additional water in the apples. The actual cakes didn’t look beautiful when baked – but they tasted fantastic!  Will definitely be making these again.

When making the icing, I added slightly too much vanilla – which made it over-sweet. I think the vanilla needs to be there to temper the cinnamon, which can be a bit bitter, but it needs to be carefully balanced!

12 pink and purple owl cupcake toppersInspired by the owls that are everywhere at the moment – I decided to make owl cupcake toppers.  I had to improvise quite a bit to find cutters to work for the owl shapes – in the end, I used two kleaf cutters for the bodies of the owls and the tip of a piping nozzle for the eyes. The flowers were easy, but I had to use the edge of a piping nozzle  to cut the leaf shapes. They took quite a while but I think they were worth it!

Apple and cinnamon cupcakes with an apple puree filling and cinnamon buttercream
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 150g soft brown sugar
  3. 75g Demerara sugar
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 150g self-raising flour, sifted
  6. 125g plain flour, sifted
  7. 90ml semi-skimmed milk
  8. 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and grated
  9. 2 tsp cinnamon
  1. 2 large or 3 small Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into rough chunks
  2. Soft brown sugar, to taste
  3. 3 tblsp water
Buttercream icing:
  1. 110g butter, at room temperature
  2. 500g icing sugar, sifted
  3. 60ml semi-skimmed milk
  4. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 160C/350F/GM4.
  2. Line a 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake cases.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy this will take at least 5 minutes with an electric hand mixer – don’t rush this stage).
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for a few minutes after each addition. It should result in a lovely light mousse-like mixture.
  5. Combine the two flours and the cinnamon in a separate bowl.
  6. Add one third of the flours to the creamed mixture and stir gently to combine.
  7. Pour in one third of the milk mixture and stir gently.
  8. Continue to add flours and then milk mixture alternately, stirring gently after each addition, until all have been added.
  9. Squeeze the grated apple in your hands to get rid of as much of the apple juice as possible.
  10. Stir in the squeezed apple gratings to the cake mixture.
  11. Spoon mixture into the cupcake cases, filling to about 2/3 full.
  12. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until lightly golden brown. The cakes will spring back lightly when touched, if cooked.
  13. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes, before carefully placing on a wire rack to finish cooling.
While the cakes are in the oven, make up the filling and buttercream:
  1. Put the Bramley apple chunks into a saucepan with the water and about a tablespoon of soft brown sugar.
  2. Place over a low heat and stir occasionally until the apples have reduced to a thick puree.
  3. Taste and add more sugar as needed. You don’t want the apple to be too sweet as it will balance the sweet buttercream.
  4. Place to one side to cool slightly.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon and half of the icing sugar until smooth.
  6. Add the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
To fill and decorate:
Apple and cinnamon cupcake with cinnamon buttercream swirl and an owl cupcake topper
  1. Once cakes are cooked and cooled, use a tea spoon to cut a cone out from the centre of the cakes.
  2. Cut the top disk off each cone and retain.
  3. Fill the hole in each cake with a teaspoon of pureed apple and then replace a cake disk onto each cake to seal the hole.
  4. Place buttercream into an icing bag with a star shaped nozzle (I use the Wilton 1M nozzle). Swirl onto cupcakes.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Strawberry and white chocolate macaroons

White chocolate and strawberry macaroons

Wow – ok, first post of 2013!  Start of this year has been a bit manic and so I’m a bit behind on writing things up. Hopefully things have calmed down a bit now!

Last week was a friend’s birthday and I wanted to do a few fab things for her.  I decided that I hadn’t made macaroons in absolutely ages so fancied giving them a go again. My friend has always loved the apple cakes that I have made in the past so decided to also make a batch of apple and cinnamon cupcakes – recipe and photos to follow in next blog post.

As mentioned, I haven’t made macaroons in months and months.  I first made them just over a year ago – fancying a challenge.  They are quite fiddly and you do need to be very precise - but they are definitely worth the effort for a special occasion. I did loads of research and ended up going with Brave Tart’s recipe and suggestions – partly because she uses a KitchenAid.  She has loads of great suggestions on how to make macaroons – which tips are essential and which are purely myths.  Although I have to admit that I do stick with a few things she says aren’t essential – here's my version.



  1. 115g ground almonds
  2. 230g icing sugar*
  3. 144g egg whites (about 4 large eggs), at room temperature
  4. 72g granulated sugar
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. Small amount paste food colouring


  1. Trace out 3.5 guide-circles (at least 3cm apart) onto baking parchment and then flip it over, ink side down.  I use one of my large piping tips, but a small cookie cutter or large bottle lid could also work.
  2. Prepare a large piping bag, fitted with a medium round  tip.
  3. Line two  baking trays lined with the prepared baking parchment.
  4. Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl.
  5. Sieve the ground almonds into the same bowl – discard any bits that don’t go through the sieve (make sure that you have the correct weight in the bowl after sieving).
  6. Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
  7. Turn the mixer to medium (4 on a Kitchen Aid) and whisk for 3 minutes. The mix will not seem especially foamy at that point.
  8. Increase the speed to medium-high (7 on a Kitchen Aid) and whisk another 3 minutes, then crank the speed to 8 for go another 3 minutes. You should have a very stiff, dry meringue.  If the meringue has not become stiff enough to clump inside the whisk, continue beating for another minute, or until it does so.
  9. Add in a small amount of the food colouring and whisk for a final minute on the highest speed  Don’t worry if it deflates a little at this stage – I find adding the colour can make this happen.
  10. Remove the bowl from the mixer.
  11. Add the dry ingredients all at once and fold them in with a rubber spatula. Use both a folding motion (to incorporate the dry ingredients) and a rubbing/smearing motion, to deflate the meringue against the side of the bowl. This is called macaronage - it is about deflating the whites: you want to knock the air out of the meringue.
  12. Count each fold carefully. After about 25 folds, the mixture will still have a quite lumpy and stiff texture. You probably want to do another 15 or so folds.
  13. To test when the batter is ready, spoon some of the mix out and dollop it on top. Count to 30 – the dolloped mix should gradually incorporate back into the rest of the mixture. If it doesn’t incorporate, fold again. Keep testing to make sure that you don’t go too far. Overmixed macaroon batter has a runny, pancake batter-like texture. It will ooze continuously. I don’t know of anything to save it at this point so don’t go too far!
  14. Transfer about half the batter to a piping bag.
  15. Pipe the batter into the pre-traced circles on the baking parchment lined trays.  Stop piping just before the circle of batter reaches the borders of the drawn circle, as the batter will continue to spread just a bit.
  16. When the piping bag is nearly empty, re-fill with batter and continue to pipe. 
  17. After piping your macaroons, lift the baking tray and bang it hard on your worktop. Turn the tray ninety degrees and bang twice more. This will dislodge any large air bubbles that might cause your macaroons to crack
  18. Turn the oven on to preheat at 150C
  19. Leave your piped macaroons to rest on the worktop for at least 20 minutes while the oven heats up. 
  20. Bake for about 18 - 25 minutes. To test if they are baked, gently peel the baking parchment  away from a macaroon at the edge of the tray.  If, the top comes off, leaving the bottom on the parchment, they need to go back in the ovenThe macaroon should gently peel off, but don’t worry if it sticks a little – the macaroons will continue to bake a little and firm up on the tray whilst cooling.  
  21. When the macaroons have baked, remove from the oven and cool thoroughly on the pans, before peeling the cooled macaroons from the parchment.
  22. Once cool, fill a piping bag with buttercream of your choice and pipe into half of the shells. Add any other fillings then sandwich them with plain halves.

White chocolate and strawberry filling

White chocolate and strawberry macaroons

This is the filling I made for the pictured macaroons. It tasted great straight away as the slightly sharp strawberry puree contrasts well with the very sweet white chocolate buttercream. However, the puree was too runny and spurted out of the back of the macaroons! After a day, this problem resolved as the strawberry puree soaked into the macaroons. However, I then found them too sweet as you lost the sharpness of the fresh strawberry.  I think if I were to try them again, I would have a go at sticking a sheet of gelatine in the puree to set it a little.

White chocolate buttercream


  1. 60g butter, at room temperature
  2. 250g icing sugar
  3. ½ tsp vanilla extract
  4. 2 tblsp milk
  5. 3 tblsp double cream
  6. 100g good quality white chocolate


  1. Place the white chocolate in a glass bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water.
  2. Stir until melted.
  3. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Place the butter, vanilla extract, milk and half of the icing sugar in a bowl and whisk (preferably with an electric or stand mixer, although I start with a wooden spoon so that the icing sugar doesn’t form huge clouds!) until smooth and creamy.
  5. Add the rest of the icing sugar and mix again until smooth.
  6. Add in the double cream and cooled white chocolate and mix again.

Strawberry puree

  1. Place approximately 10 strawberries in a blender and blend until smooth.


This is a really reliable recipe for macaroons - but I'm quite tempted to give another one a go - when I have some time to experiment. Although this recipe does result in a little "foot" and domed, shiny top, they don't rise quite as much as I would like. The pictures on Brave Tart's website suggests that she doesn't get much more rise. 

The filling needs refining - I like the idea of strawberry and white chocolate but need to work out how to make it work a little better. I have also made macaroons before with a passionfruit buttercream and they were delicious! As a warning, recipes do suggest that you can flavour the actual macaroon - this has always ended up killing the meringue for me - so I don't bother - the filling provides plenty of flavour!